Genesis 21-22, Matthew 11

Faith In A Faithful God.

Genesis 21-22, Matthew 11

The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. – Genesis 21:1-2 ESV

God can be trusted. This is the story of the Bible. He is faithful to His Word and always does what He says He will do. But the greatest test for mankind and especially those who call themselves the people of God is to learn to trust God and take Him at His Word. Too often, we place our hope in the promises made by God and fail to worship the promise-maker. At this point in the Genesis story we see God miraculously fulfilling His promise to Abraham and Sarah to give them a son. God does as He had promised. In spite of old age and barrenness, a son is born to them. With the birth of Isaac, Abraham and Sarah finally have the longing of their heart and the fulfillment of their dreams. God has blessed them. But He also has a dramatic lesson for them to learn.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God was faithful to His Word. He delivered on His promise – “at the time of which God had spoken to him.” In other words, at just the right time, God did what He had always intended to do. Part of the lesson of faith Abraham and Sarah were to learn is that God works on His own schedule, and His timing is perfect. Faith requires dependence on the wisdom of God and a willingness to wait on the timing of God. God always does what is right and He does it right on time. The same would be true of another “son” to be born. Paul writes, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5 ESV). When the appropriate time had come, God sent His Son. God is never late. His timing is perfect and He works His divine plan to perfection.

But while God had fulfilled His promise to Abraham and Sarah, He had another valuable lesson for them to learn. He knew that their tendency would be to make the long-awaited promise, Isaac, more important than the one who had the promise possible. There is no doubt that, as proud parents, Abraham and Sarah would have had dreams and aspirations for their new son. They knew he was the hope of their future and the key to all of God’s promises being fulfilled. They held in their hands the tangible proof of God’s faithfulness. But their faithful God was going to test their faith and demand that they let go of that for which they had so long waited.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Once Isaac had arrived on the scene and Sarah had seen God’s promise fulfilled, she began to have second thoughts about Ishmael, the son Abraham had had with Hagar, Sarah’s maid servant. Suddenly, Sarah’s plan didn’t look so good. Ishmael was a constant reminder of her unfaithfulness. Not only that, he posed a threat to Isaac, representing a potential competitor for the family inheritance. So she determined to get rid of Hagar and her son. She demanded that Abraham send them away, and God told Abraham to comply with his wife’s wishes, assuring him that He would take care of them. He even promises Abraham,” I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring” (Genesis 21:13 ESV). It seems that what Sarah determined to do out of a spirit of jealousy and anger, God would use for blessing. And yet, Sarah’s plan to use Hagar as a means to fulfill the plan of God in her own way was going to eventually create a problem for the people of God. She could send Ishmael away, but she would not eliminate the threat. His descendants would eventually produce the Arab nations that have long been the antagonists of the people of Israel. These descendants of Abraham would prove to be the persistent enemies of the descendants of Isaac. All because Sarah had been unwilling to wait on God and determined to take matters into her own hands.

But the real lesson in this passage appears to be God’s desire for them to learn to worship Him alone. He knew that they had made Isaac the focus of their lives. He had become their everything. He was the answer to their dreams and the hope of their future. They had what they had so long waited for. So God demands that they give it up. He commands Abraham to sacrifice that which He had provided. They must let go of the promise and obey the promise-maker. This was the ultimate test for these two. But God wanted to know whether Isaac meant more to them than He did. Were they putting their trust in Isaac or in God? Abraham’s obedience and faith was tested and he passed with flying colors. His willingness to do what God had commanded proved that His trust was in God. He believed that God would fulfill His promise even if Isaac, the fulfillment of that promise, was somehow eliminated. Abraham’s faith was in the promise-maker. His trust was in God, not that which God had given. What an invaluable lesson for each of us to learn.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

When Jesus appeared on the scene, He came as the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Messiah. He was the long-awaited Savior of Israel. He was the descendant of David and the rightful King of Israel, and the disciples followed Him believing that He was all that He claimed to be. Jesus told His followers, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV). Those words spoke to them of rest from oppression, freedom from Roman rule, and a change in their current status as an enslaved people. But their Messiah was to die. Their promise was to be gruesomely eliminated on a cruel Roman cross. The one for whom they had long waited was going to be killed right before their eyes. The Son was going to be sacrificed. But Jesus had told them that He would die and He had warned them that His death was a necessary part of God’s plan for their future redemption. His death would secure their eternal life. His sacrifice would satisfy God’s just punishment for their sin. Their promise was going to have to die, so that their faith would be in God, the ultimate fulfiller of all promises. Their faith had become ill-placed. They had made a god out of their concept of the Messiah. They were looking for Jesus to be their political Savior. They wanted Him to be their earthly king ruling from a physical throne in Jerusalem. They wanted to be set free from physical oppression. But God had more in store for them. He wanted them to trust Him and His plan for them, not their perverted version of that plan. Their dreams had to die. The promise to which they had clinged had to be wrenched from their hands. Jesus came to offer them a different kind of rest, a release from a different kind of burden. But they would have to trust God. And the same is true for me today. I can still twist the promises of God and try to make them about my comfort, pleasure, and fulfillment in this life. I can make my walk with Him all about my happiness, instead of my holiness. I must continually place my version of the promise on the alter and worship the one who made the promise in the first place. I must trust God and worship Him. His plan and timing are perfect.

Father, thank You for the promise of Your Son. But forgive me for making salvation all about me and my own selfish pleasure. Your plan is far greater than my comfort and convenience, just as Your plan for Abraham and Sarah was far greater than their enjoyment of a son. They had to learn that Your promise was far greater than one small boy. It was far more involved than just their short-term enjoyment of having a son of their own. Give me a future perspective that allows me to see beyond my own blessings and recognize that Your plan is far greater than I could ever conceive. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men